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Post Lot Text
The putorino is an instrument unique to Maori culture. An object which fascinated early travellers including the men who sailed with Captain Cook and who collected several examples. Formed from a single piece of matai wood which was split in two and then hollowed out, it was bound with flax (in northern areas) and the aerial roots of the kiekie plant in central and eastern areas. The elaborate decoration on many examples clearly indicates the importance with which it was regarded, but because its use was discontinued soon after contact it is not clear exactly how it was played. George Humphrey in his manuscript catalogue of 1782, described the putorino as ‘a curious Trumpet or War-Horn used by the New Zealand Warriors....They blow it in the same manner as horn is, and modulate the sound by the Fingers placed over the large hole in the middle’. Georg Forster, writing in his 1778-80 account of Cook’s second voyage writes: ‘a third instrument, which our people called a flute, consisted of a hollow tube, which was widest in the middle, and in this area, as at both ends, there was an opening’.
Of the nine putorino listed by Adrienne Kaeppler in her exhaustive study of Cook voyage artefacts (“Artificial Curiosities”, Honolulu,1978, pp.183-184), five are linked to Cook on circumstantial evidence. As Kaeppler points out, many artifacts lost such associations over subsequent generations. This was the case with the collection at Warwick Castle. When Sotheby’s offered thirty-three lots of African and Oceanic art on behalf of the Trustees of the Warwick Castle Resettlement in December 1969, no link with the voyages of Captain Cook was mentioned in the catalogue. It was some years later that Kaeppler established a firm link when she identified lot 175 from the Sotheby sale, a Society Islands god image, to’o, as the same object illustrated by John Frederick Miller in a 1771 drawing in the British Library (Add.Ms. 15,508.26). It must therefore have been collected on Cook’s first voyage aboard the Endeavour (1768 - 1771).
Ralph Nash, through whom George Ortiz acquired the Hawaiian figure from Warwick Castle (lot 178), later wrote to Ortiz to say that after much research he was convinced the figure was from Cook’s Voyages and had been acquired anonymously by Joseph Banks at the sale of the Leverian Museum. Ortiz did not quote any evidence for this when he told the story in In Pursuit of the Absolute: Art of the Ancient World from the George Ortiz Collection (London, 1994), and today this seems highly unlikely. Adrienne Kaeppler did not include the figure, nor any other item from Warwick Castle, in her survey of the Leverian collection (Holophusicon: The Leverian Museum, An Eighteenth-Century English Institution of Science, Curiosity, and Art, Altenstadt, 2011). Far more likely is her theory that the Earls of Warwick obtained their Cook Voyage artefacts directly from Joseph Banks. Charles Francis Greville (1749-1809) was the second son of Francis Greville, 1st Earl of Warwick. He was a close friend of Banks and a fellow member of the Society of Dilettanti. Banks had accompanied Cook on his first voyage but he and his group withdrew from the second voyage after disagreement with the Admiralty. He rarely travelled abroad after that but in 1773 he accompanied Charles Greville and Captain John Bentinck and his son William to Holland. They travelled to The Hague, visited the Leiden University zoological collection, herbarium and botanical garden. Then to Harlem, Amsterdam, Utrecht and Rotterdam where Banks and Greville were guests of the Rotterdam Society for Literature. Charles Greville never married and in the latter part of his life he lived at the family seat, Warwick Castle.
There are few contemporary descriptions of the contents of the castle. In 1815 the Rev. William Field wrote An Historical and Descriptive Account of the Town and Castle of Warwick and of the Neighbouring Spa of Leamington. In his description of Warwick Castle he describes the contents of the Armoury Passage: “This apartment might well deserve the more expressive name of The Museum. It contains a collection of curiosities; many of rare occurrence, and of inestimable value; and, in the whole, so numerous, that their names alone would form a long catalogue.” (Op. cit. 1815, p.205). An 1853 manuscript inventory of the contents of the castle, now in the Warwickshire County Record Office, was compiled by someone with little knowledge of ethnographic artifacts and it is therefore difficult to marry any descriptions with objects known to have been there. The inventory does however include the term “South Sea” to describe a number of items, mostly in what was referred to as the “Indian Department”.
Three early putorino of similar form were acquired by William Oldman (The Oldman Collection of Maori Artifacts, Auckland, 2004, plate 27) but lack collection data. A drawing, dated 1772, by John Frederick Miller, employed by Banks to draw artifacts collected by him and others, shows a flute similar to the present lot but lacking the small head at the base found in the present example (British Library MS 23920, f71(b)). The style and patination of the present lot are entirely consistent with an eighteenth century date and a Cook Voyage provenance for this lot is therefore highly probable.